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Virtual Cushing Village tour debuting in Belmont

Posted by Evan Allen  March 12, 2012 02:27 PM

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A virtual Cushing Village will debut Tuesday night at Belmont’s Planning Board meeting.

Belmont residents will get a chance to wander a "Second Life" version of the residential and retail complex planned for the heart of Belmont Center.

At the meeting, residents will view the project through the eyes of a virtual avatar who will lead them through the development, which was first proposed by Chris Starr four years ago. Neighbors will be able to see how the village would look from their own virtual kitchen windows.

The project, now in its third major revision, would bring apartment complexes and retail space to Common Street between Trapelo Road and Belmont Street, currently the site of a smattering of businesses and a few ramshackle empty buildings.

It has faced persistent opposition from neighbors worried that its size would be out of scale with surrounding homes, and concerned that the proposed apartments would draw a flood of families with school-aged children who would strain Belmont’s school system.

A dispute with the town over the purchase of a parking garage that took more than a year to resolve significantly slowed the project.

But in its current iteration, Cushing Village has picked up steam and is moving into a new phase: public discussion of design and site plans, and review of all aspects of the plan by Belmont officials.

“It’s anybody’s guess how long the process will go,” said Starr. “Our hope is to have permits approved by the end of spring. If we are able to be successful in getting our permits, then we’re hoping to get out of the ground this fall.”

Construction, he said, will likely take about 18 months.

The Cushing Village that Starr is proposing today looks very different from the one he unveiled in 2008.

He has reduced its size by a little more than 20 percent - dropping the square footage from 225,000 to 178,604, according to information provided by Starr.

An early version of Cushing Village saw one single building sprawling across the entire block – a major sticking point for neighbors. Now, Cushing Village is broken into three discrete buildings, all with gabled roofs and distinct architecture, said Starr.

Starr has modified the proposed apartment units, too, eliminating all three-bedroom apartments, greatly reducing the number of two-bedroom apartments, and focusing instead on single-bedroom units to attract singles, young couples, and empty nesters instead of families with small children who would require more taxpayer services.

“Studies done on housing and school-aged children have indicated that small one-bedroom and two-bedrooms – the small units in these densely packed communities like Cushing Village – are what they consider ‘child proof,’” said Starr. “We believe there will be very few children in this community just simply because the unit isn’t conducive to raising a child.”

Starr estimates that Cushing Village will bring between $590,000 and $660,000 worth of annual tax revenue to Belmont. The Belmont Economic Development Advisory Committee has estimated that it will bring somewhere in the neighborhood of $400,000 annually.

Tuesday’s meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at Belmont Town Hall.

More information about Cushing Village can be found here.

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com

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